What began as a humble trick-or-treating procession through Greenwich Village in the mid-70s has grown into the largest Halloween parade in the country—and a truly seminal event in the cultural evolution of New York City. This year on Halloween, over 80,000 costumed participants and 2 million spectators will have their eyes on Sixth Avenue. And 52 live bands will be playing at the parade, as performers and participants stream down Sixth Avenue amid 16 floats. It’s the most spirited night of the year; the eclectic artistry of the city is on full display. Artists who spend much of the rest of the year relegated to the margins are the stars of the evening, infusing the West Village with an infectious vibrancy.
In fact, what truly sets the Village Parade apart from every other Halloween celebration on the planet (not hyperbole) is its dedication to the arts. Each year, performances and pieces are commissioned from artists around the world and featured prominently during the parade. Massive, intricately designed puppets, seas of skeletons, and bursts of color define the aesthetic, while the music crescendos in and out, never letting a lull creep in—unless it’s intended.
So, it’s certainly a celebration of art and self-expression—but it’s also a great party.
In between the large-scale creations is where all the predictable Halloween identities intermingle with the hybrids and avant-garde creations. You’ll see Game of Thrones characters conversing with Ghostbusters escapees who are taking selfies with ghosts, while Jasons and Freddy Kruegers are hanging with zombies, werewolves, vampires, and Jokers, as Batmans and Joker-Batmans sit on the periphery taking it all in. It’s a show, to say the least. Simply walking down the streets that surround the parade is often a hilarious, enlightening, and occasionally frightening (in a good way) experience. People of all ages come out for the event and express themselves in every way imaginable.
Every year has a theme. Last year’s “Reverie” explored the realm of waking dreams. Stunning luminescent serpents swerved through the streets alongside ethereal jellyfish-like umbrella creations. This year, the theme is “The Imaginary Menagerie.” Speaking with AM New York, Jeanne Fleming, the artistic and producing director of the parade, explained that the theme “stems from the idea of being Frankenstein’s Monster, and...people will recreate themselves as imaginary beings for the night.”
As always, the boundless imagination of New Yorkers will build off the theme and turn it into something special and unique.
The one thing that can be a hassle is actually getting to the parade, which starts at 7 pm on Canal Street and Spring Street and heads North to 16th Street, ending around 11 pm. For fortunate residents of the 70 Charlton condos, that is not a problem: the Village Halloween Parade, one of the best parades in existence, and one of the most inspiring NYC experiences, is almost right outside your front door, just a block and a half away.